Subscribers to my newsletter (if that’s not you, sign-up here), will have heard me talk about some of the varieties of flowering plants we’ve tried for the first time this season and how they’ve fared. On your own plot, this is a great time of year to bask in successes and review things that didn’t go so well.
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Here’s seven varieties we introduced this year at Field Gate Farm that worked really well for us. Different plants may make it onto your ‘keepers’ list, depending on your tastes, your growing conditions and the needs of your cut flower business, so take these as suggestions:
Sweet Rocket (Hesperis matronalis) – Sweet rocket is a biennial, so we sowed it in late summer and planted out in late September. By April of the following year we had very strong plants with abundant blooms. Sweet Rocket flowers can vary in colour from deep purple, through paler lilac shades to white and you may find you get different colours within one seed pack. The variety we used was true white and set off our tulips beautifully in spring bouquets (pictured above right). We will definitely be sowing Sweet Rocket again!
Cosmos bipinnatus ‘Kiiro’ – Pictured above centre, this was a bit of an afterthought when a florist asked me to supply more unusual varieties of Cosmos. With petals in the traditional bipinnatus shape and a soft shade of yellow, fading to white in the centre and edges (possibly a hint of peach in there too?), this is definitely a winner and one we’ll be sowing year after year.
Achillea millefolium ‘Summer Pastels’ (Yarrow) – Some people find it incredible that a flower that grows so readily by the roadside should be cultivated as a cut flower. I think one look at these Summer Pastels stems (pictured above left) would win them over. We have several varieties of Achillea on the plot and all of them do well but we’re now particularly fond of Summer Pastels, which has been a sturdy and charming filler flower for bouquets and buckets since late spring. They’ll no doubt spread themselves around in the coming years, and you know what? They will be very welcome.
Above, L-R: Phlox drummondii g. ‘Crème Brulee’, Calendula officinalis ‘Indian Prince’, Callistephus ‘Duchesse Apricot’
Callistephus ‘Duchesse Apricot’ (Chinese Aster) – we chose this apricot variety and it was just gorgeous. The stems have a habit of growing towards the floor once the flower heads grow big and heavy, so staking or containing them within a string support is worthwhile. You need to pick them just before they are at their best, before the underneath petals start to turn brown.
Matthiola incana ‘Apricot’ (Stocks) – We’ve grown Stocks before and they’re pretty easy maintenance. This apricot variety blended really well with other cut flowers blooming over the summer and is perfect for including in wedding bouquets.
Phlox drummondii grandiflora ‘Crème Brulee’ – Phlox are perennials so will come back year after year. They’re also a popular candidate for the ‘Chelsea Chop’ the early summer pruning method that aims to prolong blooming periods. As we only planted our new varieties of Phlox this year (sown in the autumn of 2022), they didn’t grow very tall but produced beautiful delicately coloured flowers and we have high hopes for them in the years to come. Crème Brulee with its mix of pale coffee and pink colouring is definitely a keeper.
Calendula officinalis ‘Indian Prince’ – We’ve grown plenty of Calendula before but this particular variety gave an amazing show of orange and gold with nice long sturdy stems for cutting. Calendula are hardy annuals so can be planted out in the autumn or early spring and will produce flowers from summer through to autumn.
What have you tried for the first time this year that you can’t now be without? Comment below and I may add it to my shopping list!